“Microsoft Warning Alert” is a fake pop-up error message claiming that the computer is infected. This error is displayed by a malicious website that users visit inadvertently – they are redirected by potentially unwanted programs (PUPs) that infiltrate the system during installation of regular apps (“bundling” method). As well as causing redirects, PUPs deliver intrusive advertisements and continually record various user/system information.
This error message states that malicious content has been detected and, therefore, personal information (logins, passwords, banking details, etc.) is at risk. It is also stated that the malware must be eliminated immediately by contacting ‘certified technicians’ via the telephone number (“0-800-046-5729“) provided. Victims are then supposedly guided through the removal process. Be aware, however, that this error message is a scam. Criminals attempt to trick victims into calling and paying for services that are not required. Therefore, never attempt to call the aforementioned telephone number. You can remove this error simply by closing the web browser. Note that the malicious website displays a full screen pop-up when attempts are made to close the browser – this can only be closed via Windows Task Manager. PUPs employ a “virtual layer” to generate coupon, banner, pop-up, and other similar ads. “The virtual layer” enables placement of third party graphical content on any site. The displayed ads often conceal underlying content of visited websites. Furthermore, some lead to malicious websites. Therefore, clicking them can result in further computer infections. Another downside is information tracking – PUPs gather Internet Protocol (IP) addresses, Internet service providers (ISPs), geo-locations, URLs visited, pages viewed, search queries, mouse/keyboard activity, and other similar data that might be personally identifiable. This information is shared with third parties who misuse personal details to generate revenue. Thus, data tracking can result in serious privacy issues or even identity theft. All potentially unwanted programs must be uninstalled immediately.